Cassie Flanagan Willanski has written a beautiful thought provoking collection of stories – some in the first person, others in the third, some interlinked, and all from her perspective as an environmentalist from a non-Aboriginal background.
She has various takes on how where we live affects us all in different ways. The most powerful for me was ‘Oak Tree in the Desert’, where women from all around the world, many of them Indigenous, meet to discuss the impact of uranium mining and nuclear testing on the land that they live. Aboriginal women whose families have lived in and around Maralinga share the ongoing horrors that continue to affect them, together with the wife of one of the men who worked there at the time of the tests. It talks of the ‘radioactive racism, which targets some of the most disadvantaged people on earth, exploiting their most precious and often sole resource – land’.
In ‘Some Yellow Flowers’ she gives details of a European shipwreck, the party of which were said to have been murdered by Aboriginal people, and then two Aboriginal men were brutally hanged in retribution. Through the different characters in this story, the young couple that are visiting the area for Jackson’s university research, and the woman who talks to her dead partner, who has lived in the area for a long time, she questions the motives behind each group, reading between the lines of the history presented of the events, looking at it from each side.
The collection is beautifully written, with enough description to see and get a feel for each place, without being flowery and overdone. It could be dipped into when you are looking for something short, or read from cover to cover, as I did, and really enjoyed it.